Author Topic: Frankfurt: An American Military-Intel Metropolis  (Read 1668 times)

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Frankfurt: An American Military-Intel Metropolis
« on: November 25, 2013, 22:23:47 PM »
Frankfurt: An American Military-Intel Metropolis

By Christian Fuchs, John Goetz, Frederik Obermaier, Bastian Obermayer and Tanjev Schultz

Espionage, Logistics, Attacks Orchestrated from the U.S. Consulate

It’s understandable that the guards standing outside the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt are a little nervous. The building used to house the U.S.’s largest military hospital. Now it looks more like a fortress with its high walls, barbwire, antitank barriers, security cameras and guards with machineguns. But is it really an offense to stand in front of the building here, on the sidewalk? Or, better put, does a dawdling passer-by really necessitate two police cars and American security officers? Really?
“What are you doing here?” one officer asks.

It’s no wonder they’re so nervous here. This consulate plays a supporting roll in the worldwide NSA spying scandal from here in Germany. This is where a unit of the Special Collection Service (SCS) is based. SCS is a joint NSA-CIA program allegedly responsible for tapping the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone in Berlin. That information was made public through documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

But the German government knew about the SCS agents operating in the American consulate in Frankfurt long before the Merkel phone scandal. If they didn’t it’d be hard to explain the helicopter that the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV, Germany’s domestic security agency) sent to fly low over the consulate, taking high-resolution photos. They apparently wanted to find out whether there were any listening devices on the rooftop—like those suspected to be on the roof of the U.S. embassy in Berlin.

A Ministry of the Interior spokesperson says, “the BfV conducts air surveillance routinely, or as is necessary,” on “specific properties of certain foreign nations,” as part of its “counter-espionage” efforts. Loud and clear. ‘Counter-espionage’ leaves little to interpretation.

Camouflage of the Consulate

The use of the word ‘consulate’, on the other hand, might be a bit misleading in the case of the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt. ‘Consulate’ brings to mind gala receptions and visa paperwork. Not abductions or secret prison planning. And it definitely doesn’t bring to mind a camouflaged headquarters for CIA operations or an appropriate place for the Secret Service to have offices. But a few weeks ago we also never would’ve thought there was a listening station on the top of the embassy in Berlin.

The U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, with its 900 employees, is not only the largest in the world, but also acts as one of the largest foreign branches of the Virginia-based CIA.
Frankfurt is the U.S.’s German intelligence capitol. CIA agents, NSA spies, military intelligence officers and the Secret Service all work there. Within a 40 kilometer, or 24 mile radius the U.S. has built up a strong network of outposts and sham offices. But the center is, as far as we can tell, at the consulate.

Everything on lockdown and top secret? Not so much. Even the police around the consulate admit CIA officers work inside.

We’d love to ask the U.S. Consulate General about it and hear what they have to say.  But the consulate says there won’t been anyone there for the next few weeks with whom we could speak. A visit would not be possible either. Maybe because there’s even more to talk about than was given away by the NSA leaks.

Loading Dock for the ‘War on Terror’

To the right of the consulate entrance there’s another entryway guarded by watchmen. A sign on the door reads “Warehouse”. Every few minutes, delivery trucks drive up and the guards use mirrors to check for explosives on the underside of the automobiles. Then the drivers are allowed to continue. They’re directed to a large flat-roofed building where heavy deliveries sit and behind them, high-security containers wait for overseas shipment.

This is the largest American logistics center outside the U.S. From here the military, the CIA and other agencies supply their bases all over the world. This is where the journey begins for supplies headed to Afghanistan, Pakistan and probably Yemen and Somalia. Some are everyday objects, and some not-so-ordinary wares. Horse feed and saddles were bought in Frankfurt for the CIA’s special assignments in Afghanistan, according to one former head of the CIA in Germany. The Frankfurt Regional Support Terminal supplies whatever the ‘war on terror’ calls for. Even when it came to requests requiring some sensitivity. Such as when, after 9/11, the U.S. tried with all its might to bring the suspected masterminds of the attacks to justice. That was a task for the CIA in Frankfurt as well.

The long-time CIA agent Kyle Foggo, AKA “Dusty” was tasked with planning out three secret prison sites for the U.S. government. At these “black sites” the CIA interrogated many high-level terror suspects. Foggo orchestrated it all from Frankfurt, making sure all the interrogation chambers looked exactly the same, whether they were in Morocco or Poland; plywood walls, non-slip flooring and a plastic chair. Same appearance, same size. The prisoners were meant not to be able to figure out what country they were in—making it very difficult, later, to pin any human rights violations on the CIA. Only the utensils used in waterboarding (a long plank to which the victim is strapped, water bucket and a towel—to make sure the victim doesn’t really drown) did not come from Frankfurt. Those things were supplied locally. Foggo, who organized it all, was officially on the payroll at the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt at the time.

Military-Intel Metropolis

Frankfurt—more precisely, the greater Frankfurt area—plays a prominent role in the U.S. intelligence apparatus. Many key locations are here. For instance the mysterious Dagger Complex in Darmstadt, some 32 kilometers, or 20 miles south of Frankfurt. The military arm of the NSA’s spy troop is stationed here, isolated by a grove. The United States Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) and NSA officers of the European Cryptologic Center all work here as part of the “largest analysis and production location in Europe”, as it was put in one NSA report in 2011. Millions of pieces of data are filtered, sorted and—if necessary—decrypted and evaluated. Sometimes using the XKeyscore software made public by the NSA leaks.

From the outside, you can’t see the Dagger Complex compound. You can’t see what has been done with the millions of dollars invested here over the last few years. The most important part of the Dagger Complex is actually underground. From the so-called ICEbox American spies have monitored and intercepted communications since 2004, when they moved here from another base in southern Germany. Since then the Frankfurt area has become increasingly important for the U.S., even as public furor over the spying programs has grown. And the greater Frankfurt area will only become more important in the future.

Long after leaving the complex, the police are calling. Why are you looking around at the Dagger Complex? Research, we say. The policeman replies jokingly: There’s still an open cell in Guantanamo.

Soon the U.S. won’t need their German helpers in Darmstadt any more. The base is planned to be closed and the colleagues sent over to barracks in Wiesbaden, 30 kilometers, or 18 miles west of Frankfurt. There they’ll surely meet new colleagues from the NSA and INSCOM, as they’re headquartered there. It sounds like a place where you’d be able to get a closer look. But, we were told, a visit was not possible. Not so much as a phone interview.

One place you can get information is on the U.S. database of government contracts, which says $124 million was spent on the new intelligence analysis control center. Only U.S. companies with security clearance will be allowed to do construction there. It’s planned to be almost 12,000 square meters, almost 40,000 square feet and be occupied by some 1,500 “intelligence professionals” who will work in three shifts.

The most ‘American’ German State

The heart of the U.S. surveillance apparatus beats in the western-central German state of Hessen. Why here? Several reasons: the central positioning, the growing U.S. presence and the large international Frankfurt airport. Maybe also simply because Hessen has long been more ‘American’ than any other German state. Traditionally the lion’s share of U.S. soldiers in this country has been stationed here. This is where, in 1948, the air bridge to Berlin was orchestrated, and where, during the Cold War, 100,000 soldiers stood watch. This is where the reconnaissance flights over the USSR took off and later thousands of flights departed toward the Gulf War and even later, to Afghanistan.
Most U.S. military flights are now handled by the nearby Ramstein airbase. That’s where the Islamist Abu Omar was transferred after CIA agents abducted him in Milan. Omar was taken to Egypt where he disappeared into a torture cell for more than a year. Twenty-three U.S. agents were later convicted in absentia to long prison sentences in Italy—a symbolic victory for the rule of law. The U.S., of course, never allowed the agents to be extradited.

Parts of Omar’s abduction were planned in Frankfurt. The investigators followed the trail from a Frankfurt hotel, to an elusive trucking company at the airport, to the U.S. consulate.

All the trails—coming from and leading to U.S. intelligence agencies—converge here.

When two special agents detained an Estonian hacker and fraudster in the Frankfurt Airport—although it’s illegal for U.S. agents to do so in Germany—all roads led to Frankfurt.
The address printed on the business cards of the two agents read: U.S. Secret Service, Frankfurt Resident Office, 30 Giessener Street. The address of the U.S. consulate.

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